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Moving from Sweden, a country where we normally never overdub movies, to Germany and being confronted with all these strange, misplaced voices on television and in movie theatres became quite a shock. By mistake I happened to go to see a German version of Easy Rider and I was suprised by how much the German voices changed the content of the movie. The coolness and the laconic quality of the American language was totally lost. Somehow the characters seemed to have shrunk. The cultural clash became the main theme of the movie and it made me realise how far away Germany is from America.
It became even stranger when I discovered that every famous actor had his own overdubber, so that Robert De Niro always spoke with same German voice. To my unaccustomed ears this gave a ghostly kind of sensation, as if Robert De Niro had been possesed by a German spirit. And I started to wonder about these guys who sell their voices for money. I imagine them having union meetings and with the voices now belonging to Nicole Kidman, Al Pacino and Hugh Grant they complain to each other about having been robbed of ones own inner self.
Someone told me he saw the voice of Robert De Niro cutting a ribbon at the opening of a new shopping mall somewhere in Germany. Nobody knew who the guy with the scissors was until he came up to the microphone. And then speaking he only caused confusion and irritation among the audience since they knew for a fact that that voice didn’t belong to him but to Robert De Niro.
Woody Allen is an interesting example since he always plays exactly the same character in every movie. And this character is very much defined by his voice; his New York accent, his nervous but still precise use of the language and so on. Seeing Woody Allen movies and switching language on the DVD-player you can bet your pants on that the image is flickering as well. When creating The Allens I had the idea of all these small Allens, from different countries, inside of Woody Allen, fighting about who’s the real Allen. Somehow he looks so sad and confused with all this gibberish nonsense coming out of his mouth.